I suspect some of you are checking this from time to time, wondering whether I intend to update this any more. Well here it is- the long awaited final entry to the Stacey in Antarctica Blog (although i promise to put up one last batch of photo's after this).
The last couple of months flew by. We had one ship call which took away a few of our short-term summer staff and delivered us some more. I continued to do the albatross work which kept me busy monitoring the grey headed and black browed albatross chicks, and recording the hatch dates for all of the new wandering albatross chicks.
On base we fitted in some useful activities to help the winterers, including a search and rescue exercise, and an oil spill response scenario. We also made lists of everything that was present on base, to allow Ags, our summer BC to order what is needed for next year.
Two weeks before the end of the season, the Fisheries Protection Vessel, the Pharos, arrived, bringing a few new people. Of particular significance to me, was Jenn, who arrived to take over the albatross work from me for the winter, so I could go home. The final 2 weeks therefore were busy, handing over the job to her, and doing the final parts of the penguin work handover to Ruth. Once everyone was up to speed (I hope there wasn’t too much I forgot to tell them, but its all a bit rushed when what is usually a 5 month hand over period is squeezed into a 2 week slot!), I spent my final days packing up my belongings into boxes, and filling in the paperwork that is needed to accompany it on its journey home on the ship. I also found the time to help Mick attach tiny GLS tracking devices to fur seal pups.
The ship, the RSS Ernest Shackleton, was due to arrive on 25th March. On the day, we were all packed and ready, with all of our personal kit packed, and all of the waste, empty drums and unwanted kit ready to load. On the day, the ship arrived, but the sea was too rough to launch the small boats needed to transfer all of our kit, so it continued along the coast, to the base at King Edward Point, and promised to return on 27th instead. This was lovely, because as we were all packed and ready to go, we had 2 days of holidays, without having to worry about final packing or organising anything. The weather was kind to us, and on the final afternoon we turned off the generators and shut down the base, and all climbed La Roche (our highest peak) in the sunshine. It was a lovely afternoon, and a fitting end to a fantastic 29 months here, sitting in the sunshine on the very top of our little island in the Southern Oceans.
On 27th March the sea was calm enough for the Shackleton to do its work. The 4 winterers went onboard to visit the dentist, and those remaining ashore oversaw all kit being loaded onto the ship. Finally, by late afternoon, despite a few technical hitches, everything was loaded onboard, and all that was left was the final farewells to the island, and the friends and creatures I was leaving behind. They will all be missed very much, in a way that only people who have been before me could understand.
The Shackleton headed for the Falklands, with me and 3 others from Bird Island, leaving the 4 winterers to get on with their winter. We arrived in the Falklands 3 days later, and headed into Stanley, to enjoy the novelty of being able to spend money, and sit in a bar. It was surprising how quickly the novelty of having to pay for things wore off! Afterwards I stayed for 2 weeks in the Falklands, for a holiday, and to do some work with the Falklands Conservation group. Derren arrived mid way through, and we both spent a week in Ascension Island on the way home. We eventually returned to the UK on the evening of 23rd April 2011, where Mum and Dad came to pick us up.
I will put one final batch of photo’s onto here, of my last few weeks, so don’t stop reading just yet....